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banks of the Humber; but elder authorities expressly say, that during his reign a child with a purse of gold in its hand, or an unprotected virgin, might have passed from one extremity of the island to the other, without any danger of violence or robbery.
But whatever might be the comparative ascendency of these respective princes, or successive chiefs of the Saxon confederacy, the Saxon Chronicle puts it out of all doubt, that Egbert bequeathed no undivided sovereignty over Saxon England to his posterity; and, in fact, that his own actual kingdom only extended over the principalities of Wessex, Kent, Essex, and Sussex, as the following quotations will sufficiently show.
“A. D. 836. This year died King Egbert; him Offa, King of Mercia, and Beorhtric, the West-Saxon king, drove out of England into France three years before he was king. * Beorhtric was assisted by Offa, because he had married his daughter. Egbert having afterwards returned, reigned thirty-seven winters and seven months. Then Ethelwulf, the son of Egbert, succeeded to the West-Saxon kingdom; and he gave his son Athelstane the kingdoms of Kent, and Essex, and Surrey, and Sussex.”
Thus Mercia, East Anglia, and Northumbria, it is evident, still continued to be separate kingdoms; and, on the demise of Egbert, seem even to have regained their independence. Accordingly, A.D.853, during the reign of Æthelwulf, we find the
* There seems to be some error here, probably of transcription, three for twelve: for Offa died in 794, six years “ before Egbert was king,” and could not be assistant in driving that prince out of England. into France, three years after his own demise. Besides the circumstance seems, as related in the Chronicle, to stand in some connexion with the matrimonial alliance between the two kings of Wessex and Mercia; and it was in the year 787 that the marriage took place between Beorhtric and Eadburhge, the daughter of Offa, so that Rapin seems to be right, though he quotes not his authority, (and it is evident that his researches never ascended to the Saxon original records) in assigning the period of twelve years to the exile of Egbert. We should add, that the context clearly shows that the passage we have quoted ought to be translated as we have rendered it, “ Beorhtric was assisted by Offa, not as Mr. Ingram (with all due submission to his superior knowledge of the Saxon language) has it, that “ Bertric assisted Offa,” &c. for it was Bertric, not Offa, who had motive for the persecution of this young hero: though the marriage of the daughter of Offa to the West-Saxon king might naturally enough dispose him to refuse that refuge, which it seems was sought, to the object of the jealousy of his son-in-law.
king of the former of these states, treating with the Mercian as upon equal terms.
" This year, Burhead, King of Mercia, with his council, besought King Æthelwulf to assist him to subdue North Wales, and made all the inhabitants submit to him.” And again. “ Burhead, the Mercian king, about this time, received in marriage the daughter of Æthelwulf, the West-Saxon king.”
Again, on the death of Æthelwulf (in 857) we are told, that “ two of his sons divided the kingdom. Æthelbald became King of Wessex; and Æthelbert, King of Kent, Essex, Surrey, and Sussex.” And when Ethelbald died (A.D. 860), Æthelbert, his brother, succeeded to the whole kingdom, and held it in good order and great tranquillity :"—that is to say, to the four heptarchic states of Wessex, Sussex, Kent, and Essex, now (and not till now) permanently united, and included under the denomination of the West-Saxon kingdom. In which extended sense the language of the Chronicle is obviously to be understood, when it says—" A. D. 866. This year Æthelred, brother to Æthelbert, took the West-Saxon government." And, again, (A. D. 871) when it specifies, « Then Ælfred, his brother, the son of Athelwulf, took the kingdom of Wessex.”_" The same year,” says the same authority, “ the West-Saxons made peace with the Danes.”
Thus, at the apparently inauspicious accession of our immortal Alfred (for nine general battles, besides skirmishes, were fought that year in the kingdom south of the Thames, and nine earls and one king were slain) the territory which had constituted the Anglian or Saxon Heptarchy was still indisputably divided into four kingdoms-namely, the West-Saxon, the Mid-Saxon, or Mercian; and the Northumbrian and EastAnglian, then in subjugation to the Danes. . The result of the long and arduous struggle with the Danish invaders, however, evidently extended, in no small degree, the influence of the West-Saxon sceptre over the Mercian state. That kingdom, in the general wreck and calamity, having been completely trampled, and its sceptre broken by the northern marauders, Alfred, the ultimate deliverer, would naturally assume an authority over the realm he had liberated from a foreign yoke. And, accordingly, we find, that when (A. D. 886) the defeated army of the northmen " that before were bent eastward, went back again (over seas) to the west, and, proceeding upwards along the Seine, [laid siege to, and] fixed their winter-quarters in the city of Paris,* King Alfred
. * See Télibien, Histoire de la Ville de Paris, l. ii, and the barbarous Latin hexameters of Abbo, abbot of Fleury.
having fortified the city of London, and committed it to the care of Alderman Ethered. the whole English nation turned to him, except that part of it which was bield captive by the Danes.”-For it was the army of fresh invaders, and not the long-settled Danes of Vorthumbria and East-Anglia, that were thus completely vanquished and driven out of the island. And although the same authority, in noticing the death of Alfred, A.D.901,“ six nights before the mass of All Saints," again observes, that “ he was king of all the English nation, except that part which was under the power of the Danes," vet was he so far from assuming the title of King of England, that his laws and institutions, to the last, designate him only (like his ancestors) by the modest appellation of King of the West Saxons.
And to the same title succeeded his scarcely less illustrious son, the heroie Edward the Elder. Vor did that gallant and enterprising prince entirely submerge, in the first instance, the Mercian kmgdom in that of Wessex; but suffered it to be governed as a separate, though probably, in some degree, dependent state by his amazonian sister, Ethelffeda : who, as á Lady (Hafdge) of all the Mercians," (such was the feminine of the regal title--for cwen, or queen, signified, in reality, only a companion) exercised in her own person all the rights of sovereignty; built her fortresses and waged her wars both against the Vorthumbrians, and those who disputed her sway; " sent her army into Wales (A.D. 916), stormed Brecknock; and there took the king's wife, with some four and thirty others;” and “ with the help of God" took the town of Derby “ where were slain four of her thanes," and
" A.D. 920, with God's assistance, the town of Leicester; where the greater part of the army that belonged thereto submitted to her. And the Yorkists had also promised and confirmed, some by agreement and some by oaths, that they would be in her interest. But very soon after they had done this, she departed, twelve nights before Midsummer, at Tamworth, the eighth year that she was holding the goverpment of the Mercians with right dominion.”
And now, and not till now, does Mercia seem to have be- . come extinct as a separate kingdom :—for
“ This year, also, was the daughter of Æthered, lord of the Mercians, deprived of all authority over the Mercians, and led into Wessex, three weeks before mid-winter. Her name was Hælfwina.”
At this time, indeed, was the Saxon kingdom rapidly hastening to consolidation. For, (Edward having already triumphed over the hostile pretensions and attempts of " Prince Athelwald, the son of his paternal uncle ;"" and that prince,
with a great number of his Danish allies, having been slain in the sanguinary and otherwise doubtful conflict of A.D. 905, and Eowils and Healfden, kings of Northumbria and East Anglia, having also been slain, with many thousands of their men, A.D.911,) the politic victor pursued his advantages over the Danes of East Anglia; while,
*** A.D. 921, Earl Thurferth and the captains of all the army northward of the Welland returned to him, and sought him for their lord and protector ;" as did also “ all the population of Mercia' (both Danish and English), who before were subject to Æthælfleda. ''And the king's in North-Wales, Howel and Cledauc, and Jeothwel, and all the people of North-Wales sought him for their lord,”* And although " King Reynold [the Dane] won York,” yet we find that in 924, “The King of Scotland, with all his people, chose him as father and lord ; as did [this same] Reynold, the son of Eadulf, and all that dwell in Northumbria, both English and Danish, both Northmen and others; also the King of the Strathclydwallians [the Strathclwd Britons], and all his people.”
Here were, indeed, something like the foundations laid of a general sovereignty; and the superstructure proceeds accordingly.
,6 A.D. 925, This year died King Edward at Farndon in Mercia; and Ælward, his son,t died very soon after in Oxford. Their bodies lie at Winchester. And Æthelstan [though an illegitimate offspring] was chosen king in Mercia, and consecrated at Kingston. He gave his sister to Otho, son of the king of the Old-Saxons” (Otho the Great, Emperor of Germany). And “ this year King Æthelstan and Sithric, King of the Northumbrians, came together at Tamworth, the sixth day before the calends of February; and Æthelstan gave away his [other] sister to him."
quo * *. This magnanimous prince, whose exploits have hitherto been toof generally passed over with a careless hand, was not merely a warrior, whose power was exerted only to vanquish and destroy; he seems to have been equally attentive to consolidate and restore.
" (A.D. 923. This year went King Edward with an army, late in the harvest, to Thelwall (on the borders of Cheshire); and ordered the borough to be repaired, and inhabited, and manned. And he ordered another army, also, from the population of Mercia, the while he sat there, to go to Manchester in Northumbria, to repair and man it." And in the ensuing year he repaired also Nottingham, “ and the bridge over the Trent betwixt the two towns.". . .
ist Another legitimate son, however, of the great Edward followed the illegitimate successor to the Scottish wars; and his exploits there are celebrated, together with those of the king, in the strains of Saxon poetry.
So that even yet the supremacy amounted not to an undivided sovereignty. However, in the ensuing year, we find that
“ Æthelstan took to the kingdom of Northumbria, and governed all the kings that were in this island: first, Howell, king of West Wales; and Constantine, king of the Scots; and Owen, king of Monmouth; and Aldred, the son of Eadulf, of Bamburgh. And with covenants and oaths, they ratified their agreement in the place called Emmet, on the fourth day before the ides of July; and renounced all idolatry, and afterwards returned in peace.”
This was an extent of consolidated sovereignty which had never before been so unequivocally enjoyed by any single potentate in this island. The whole, however, of this extended dominion did not, as is notorious, remain undisputed, either in Æthelstan or his successors; and, indeed, his after wars with the King of Scots, especially in 938, furnish the subject of what may be called a noble contemporary ode; an almost literal version of which, in something like the original rhythmus, will be found in Mr. Ingram's translation of the work we are reviewing. Æthelstan, however, as has been ascertained by authentic documents, assumed (and, we repeat it, was the first of our Saxon ancestors who did assume) the title of King of England; and bequeathed to his successors, at least, the undivided sovereignty of what had heretofore constituted the states of the Saxon Heptarchy. To him, therefore, and not to Egbert, is to be assigned the honour of founding what has since been called phe English Monarchy.
We have dwelt so largely upon this subject, so erronequsly represented in our popular histories, that we have neither time nor space for the quotation of those many valuable passages, obviously from the pens of contemporary annalists, which might rectify other misapprehensions. Of these, there are many in this work, which might place in a clearer point of view the circumstances that prepared the way for the Norman conquest, and bring into fair comparison the comparative bearings of the Norman and Saxon systems upon the character and condition of the people. But, for satisfaction upon these subjects, we must refer the student to the Saxon annals themselves, and to the archives and documents by which those annals may be illustrated.
We cannot, however, take leave of this long article, without a farewell quotation of one highly interesting extract: the character of William the First, from the pen of a contemporary and near observer.
“ A. D. 1087.-In the one-and-twentieth year after William began to govern and direct England, as God granted him, was a very